How Cognizant is helping Aston Martin compete in F1 Racing

07 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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Two years after it became a title sponsor to the Aston Martin Formula 1 team, Cognizant is helping the UK racing giant rise through the ranks in the latest racing season. The surprise package of the year, Aston Martin are currently third in the constructors’ championship, with driver Fernando Alonso also third in the drivers’ championship.

A British independent manufacturer of luxury sports cars and grand tourers, Aston Martin is an iconic automotive brand has a far less prestigious history in motorsport. Founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford, between 1959 and 1960 the brand’s first open-wheel racing car – the DBR4 – famously failed to accrue a single point in either Formula 1 campaign. The team would not re-enter the arena for another 60 years.

All that changed in 2021, with the news that Aston Martin was returning to Formula 1 for the 2021 World Championship – following a commercial rebranding of Racing Point UK's Racing Point F1 Team. The result of a funding investment from Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll, the move initially saw the team’s vehicles manned by four-time World Drivers' Champion Sebastian Vettel, alongside other driver Lance Stroll – son of the team’s owner.

How Cognizant is helping Aston Martin compete in F1 Racing

Stroll is now partnered by another former champion – Fernando Alonso – and this, along with a host of other changes, has finally seen Aston Martin hit on something of a winning formula in the world of professional racing. The team sits third in the constructor’s championship, with 175 points and six podium-finishes in the 2023 season – a far cry from those ignominious first championships in the late 1950s.

One of the driving factors behind this shock success seems to be the involvement of Jersey-listed professional services firm Cognizant – Aston Martin’s title sponsor since it returned to the track in 2021. The firm has concerned itself with more than just naming rights, however, deploying its market-leading capabilities in data analysis to help engineer the cars the team drives, and helping improve their performance.

During each race, the cars have up to 300 sensors on them feeding back to the engineers in real time. This informs the drivers and their engineers exactly how the car is operating over the course of a race, resulting in more than three terabytes of data every session. Cognizant then analyses that data in real time, to look at things like tire degradation, how Aston Martin needs to change the car set up around certain corners, and what aerodynamic factors may be working against its current design.

Data-driven

Rob Walker, Cognizant’s President of Global Growth Markets, explained, “We’re not going to say that we are Formula One aerodynamic engineers, but we have about 40,000 data scientists. We’re pretty good at understanding data.” 

Speaking to Forbes, he pointed to the typical steering wheel used in Formula 1 for an example of how the firm has been helping. They usually have “lots of knobs where the driver can change the setup”, and usually drivers will change the set up mid-race. This can help them get “one-tenth of a second per corner” – which might not sound like a lot, but in a precision sport where every second counts, it is of huge importance. At the same time, Cognizant can “monitor damage on the car and assess the point that it needs to come in to have something changed”, saving crucial time when it comes to a pit-stop.

“There’s a lot of work that we do,” Walker added. “Blowing all that data through and then in real time helping the team analyse that data to then make decisions during the rest of the race. It’s one of the most complicated set of data decisioning points that any global sport has to deal with.”

How much this work has contributed to the turnaround for Aston Martin’s fortunes this season is a matter of debate. While Walker would like to claim Cognizant’s involvement is the crucial factor, he concedes that it may well be more to do with the arrival of Alonso, and Aston Martin’s poaching of top engineering talent from rivals Mercedes and Red Bull. Even so, every little helps, and he is extremely proud of the work Cognizant is doing at the races.  

“If I had an engineer from Aston Martin on the phone with us now, they would say it’s about 98%, the car that determines the win, and 2% the driver. If a driver was here, he’d tell us it’s about 25% the driver. But both add up. If you set the car up incorrectly, or the driver blinks at the wrong moment, you can lose anywhere from 0.1 to 0.2 seconds on each corner. That’s 100 metres that you’re losing on one lap. Put that over the length of an entire race, or 58 laps, you realise just how small the margins are. That tenth of a second per corner is the difference between you finishing, potentially third, or 15th.”

Whoever takes the credit, the things Aston Martin is doing differently this year are clearly working. The best the team could manage in the entire 2022 season was three sixth-place finishes. But lead driver Alonso has already eclipsed that with six podium finishes this season – including two runners-up positions. Looking ahead to next season, if they can build on these improvements further, the Aston Martin team may well be dreaming of the taste of champagne in 2024.